Texas Jury Set to Weigh Smuggling Deaths - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

01/10/08 - Houston, Texas

Texas Jury Set to Weigh Smuggling Deaths

With their arms around each other, relatives of a truck driver facing a possible death sentence in the nation's deadliest human smuggling attempt listened as a defense attorney pleaded to jurors to spare his life.

'I ask you as if his father were asking. Please save his son, please save his son,' attorney Craig Washington said Monday as he turned and looked at the father of Tyrone Williams. 'You have the power in your hands to save (his) son.'

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday on whether to sentence Williams to death or up to life in prison. He was convicted last month on 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring and transporting immigrants in connection with the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants.

More than 70 immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic were packed inside Williams' trailer in the failed 2003 smuggling attempt from South Texas to Houston. Nineteen died from dehydration, overheating and suffocation after nearly four hours inside the oven-like container.

Williams gave water to the immigrants before he abandoned the container near Victoria, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, Washington told jurors. Williams also has admitted guilt and expressed remorse, signs he could be rehabilitated, he said.

'If he's trying to kill the people in the trailer, why is he concerned about getting them water?' the attorney said.

Washington said his client made a mistake.

'But he doesn't deserve to die,' he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez told jurors Williams was a 'cold-hearted, callous, depraved' individual who deserves a death sentence because he alone could have freed the immigrants before they died but chose not to open the trailer's doors. He said Williams could have also turned on the trailer's air conditioning unit, which might have prevented the deaths.

'These people didn't deserve to die,' he said. 'He sure as hell does.'

During his closing arguments, Rodriguez showed photos of each of the 19 immigrants with their families at parties, church events or other gatherings. Then he showed crime-scene photos of the same individuals and said their deaths had devastated their families.

The trial was the second for Williams, 35, a Jamaican citizen who lived in Schenectady, N.Y. An appeals court overturned a verdict against him in 2005 when a jury convicted him on 38 transporting counts, but couldn't agree on his role in the smuggling attempt and were deadlocked on the 20 other counts.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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